Monday, 11 October 2010

A total disaster??? Not really!

I was really excited last week as some people from Singapore were coming to observe the groups at one of the local Children's Centres with a view to having a franchise in Singapore. We had been liaising for months about how the groups worked and what the reasoning behind them was etc. They had had video and sessions plans as well as the franchise agreement. I never 'count my chickens' as it were but I was very hopeful. They were, after all, coming all the way from Singapore!!

On the morning of the visit, I had everything laid out and planned with notes for them to follow so they could see what I was doing and why, in a smart presentation pack.

The first group is for 3 year olds to prepare them for school. A group of 6 children came in and everything went to plan....... for 10 minutes, then there was a loud bang as a Father and his 2 year old toddler loudly burst into the room. The father sat down and left his young son to his own devises. He just gave a running commentary about how naughty he was. He then made himself a coffee and gave his son a biscuit from the kitchen, 'to shut him up'! I continued with the group as best as I could, given the huge distraction the man and his son posed to the young children who were trying to do their best to concentrate.

The people from Singapore had obviously never met someone like this man: vest top with numerous tattoos, missing teeth ........ you get the picture! The clash of cultures was almost audible!

The little boy was gorgeous but had only grunts as his means of communicating. His attention span was so short he couldn't sit down for more than 20 seconds. We muddled through the first group as best we could. The next group is for 2 year olds, so was ideal for the little boy. The parents sit on the floor to encourage their little ones to take part. We work on eye-contact, turn taking, sharing, co-operation, attention, listening and vocabulary before the songs, story, bubbles and snack time. Unfortunately his father didn't join the group or retrieve the little boy every time he ran into the toilet which he did every few minutes. The session was, therefore, dominated by me having to get him out of the toilet area,  prevent him from posting things down the toilet  and generally keep him safe from harm. The other mothers were great and kept trying to involve him with the activities. Another mother did the activities while I was otherwise occupied!

The visitors appeared horrified and somewhat traumatised as the father then told them repeatedly, in front of his child about the horrifying drunken antics of the child's mother over the years. At the end, he just wouldn't leave and his level of conversation completely deteriorated! It was quite frankly a complete disaster in terms of 'selling' the groups. The visitors made their excuses and left!

However, the little boy and his dad are exactly the sort of family that I want to work with in the children's centres. I know that we can do wonders with the little boy and show his dad how wonderful an achievement language really is. I'll set ground rules and discus what we're trying to achieve and why, with ideas to try at home. They are typical of many families these days, where parents just don't know how to interact with their children. They are doing the best they can in stressful circumstances. They are feeding and clothing their little ones but don't know they should be listening to and talking with them. This is creating thousands of children a year who have speech, language and communication delay for no other reason that they are not receiving sufficient stimulation. Without intervention, they start school at a disadvantage and this gap is often not closed by the time they leave. There is frightening evidence  to show that the standard of living for these young   people and their expected long term socio-economic outlook is poor. This is the whole reason why early intervention is necessary and why I set up the Smart Talkers groups.

So, it was a disaster in terms of the people from Singapore but I know that ultimately, I'm there for little boys and girls like this one and that is much more important than selling franchises to Singapore or anywhere else! 

There'll be other opportunities but the little boy needs a chance more than anything.


  1. Wow, well done you for dealing with them and extending a welcome. So many people turn away from families like that. But the poor children really need us.

  2. I think SmartTalkers is such a great business. Families need to learn how to communicate better but so does everyone else. We need to make our needs heard and understood by others and have the ability to listen.

  3. Actually, I've just heard that it didn't put them off but they want training to be able to handle situation such as that!